The only difference between someone who runs and someone who doesn’t is wanting to do it. Here’s how to make the mental leap:
The London Marathon is rousing testimony to the power of the human spirit; so it’s little wonder that we feel all fired up after watching it.
Riding high on a wave of enthusiasm through osmosis, it’s easy to imagine that we, too, could pound those pavements like a champion.
But then, two halfhearted jogs in, we start to lose steam. Soon enough, we return to the status quo (hello, Line Of Duty over a late-season feast of Mini Eggs).
And yet, the only real difference between those who ran today and those who don’t run at all is really wanting to do it. Because if you don’t have the continued motivation, it’s hard to put the work in.
Here’s four easy ways to kickstart your running habit and keep that enthusiasm going, beyond the initial spark:
Make yourself accountable
This is particularly true of running, where just one look at the weather (“ah it’s raining again”) or your wardrobe (“all my socks are holey”) can be enough to snuff out that glimmer of intention.
On top of this, it’s a good idea to enlist a running buddy or, if you have cash to spare, a personal trainer. It’s much harder to bail when you have someone else waiting on you.
This Harvard study suggests that even something as simple as a fitness tracker can work when it comes to accountability, if you have someone to monitor the results.
The bottom line? You’re motivated to both turn up and work harder when you have someone to answer to.
Don’t think, just do it
Part of the reason why we find good habits so hard to maintain is down to our brain’s tendency to overthink and talk ourselves out of things.
It’s the reason why Nike’s famous slogan has such resonance; it recognises our universal tendency to procrastinate and second-guess.
To overcome this tic, try the celebrated 5 Second Rule created by US-based life coach Mel Robbins.
Detailed in her best-selling book, the rule stipulates that it takes just five seconds between us having an instinct tied to a goal, and our minds overriding that instinct.
Instead of thinking about all the reasons why you shouldn’t run, you simply count 5-4-3-2-1 in your head and launch right into it.
It sounds so simple, but the reason why this cognitive trick works is that it builds on the momentum of your gut before your brain has a chance to intervene and find excuses.
“The Rule allows you to beat your brain at its own game and distract it from the ways that it tries to sabotage you,” says Robbins, who came up with the formula as a means of getting herself out of bed when she was going through a rough patch.
So, the next time you’re thinking of going for a run, try the 5 Second Rule and see the difference that it makes.
Break the 10-minute pain barrier
In her brilliant book Running Like a Girl, writer Alexandra Heminsley recalls how “running began to slide, slowly but surely, along the scale from torment to joy”.
On her earliest forays as a running novice, Heminsley would be floored by a “run over by a truck” vibe that led to “existential torment” and a suspicion that she was just weak and unable to run.
“I had no idea that for a regular pace it takes about ten minutes for the body to start taking on oxygen as fast as it needs, for one’s breathing to regulate or for one’s body to be properly warmed up,” she writes.
What she experienced was a biological reaction of “going lactic”: the effect that occurs when you flood your body with lactic acid, and everything hurts.
“I want to weep when I think of the number of women who head round the block, only to return twelve minutes later, broken and tearful,” says Heminsley. “[…] I suspect that they believe all runs, for ever, are as crippling as those first few.”
If you’re new to running and finding it hard, keep at it: it will get easier. And at a certain point, it will even become joyful.
Focus on how running makes you feel
When you’re new to running, it’s so easy to think of it as a chore. A necessary evil that you have to grit your teeth and get on with. No pain, no gain and all that jazz.
But the real delight of running is not how fit it makes you, but rather what it does to you on the inside.
A huge body of research shows exactly how important exercise is in reducing feelings of depression and stress. In fact, studies suggest that working out can be as effective as medication in certain cases, in terms of the effect it has in elevating mood levels.
There are countless stories out there of how people feel happier through running every day.
This won’t happen overnight; and nor will you necessarily need it to. But the key here is to shift your focus from the actual physical part of running; the distance you’re covering, how much your legs ache or whether or not you can make it to the next tree.
Instead, start paying attention to how you feel. When you run, your mind has this amazing capacity to wander and start solving problems, all of its own accord. And there’s huge sense of freedom that comes with just breaking out, and going wherever your gut takes you; drinking in views and head space along the way.
When you get to this point, running becomes a sort of meditation; and that’s the magic that’ll keep you going through thick and thin.
Images: Getty, Instagram